Joint letter query to the DILG and DND re the 235 bounty list
10 December 2012
HON. MANUEL A. ROXAS II
Department of Interior and Local Government
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA corner Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City, Philippines 1100
+63 (2) 925 0320 to 23
HON. VOLTAIRE T. GAZMIN
Department of National Defense
EDSA, Quezon City, Philippines
+63 (2) 911-6001 to 20
Dear Secretaries Roxas and Gazmin:
We have learned that the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of National Defense issued Joint Order No. 14-2012 supposedly updating the list of alleged wanted Communist leaders and allocating the amount of Four Hundred Sixty-Six Million Eighty-Eight Thousand (P466,088,000.00) Pesos as reward money for their capture.
As a matter of public interest and due to concerns raised by human rights advocates as well as in representation of our clients most of whom are facing baseless and trumped-up charges, we have already issued public statements questioning the basis, propriety and legality of the said joint order.
We must note at the outset that it is quite odd that the order was jointly issued by the DND and the DILG, when in fact it is the civilian authorities, through the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and not the military, which is primarily authorized by law in effecting any arrests.
Further, while there was reference to the said Joint Order No. 14-2012 in your public statements, the copy of the said Joint Order and the supposed list have, as far as we know, not yet been fully disclosed to the public. As such, while the amount of the bounty as well as the number of those in the list is publicly known, the public is totally left in the dark on the details of the said Order especially with respect to the names of those included in the list and the basis, if any, for their inclusion.
We respectfully take exception as a matter of principle and law to the hitherto secret list (except for the mention of around 4 publicly-known individuals). We believe it is essential that there should be clear, verifiable and valid criteria for the inclusion of anyone in the list, and the same should have been publicly disclosed to ensure that only those who are validly charged and are with pending judicial warrants of arrest are included therein.
Otherwise, we think that the list is arbitrary and will only serve as another institutionalized tool to vilify the names of those included, especially those who are not actually and validly charged in the courts. It is simply anathema to basic rules of fairness.
The continued failure to disclose the names included in the list and the basis for including the names in the list have potential if not imminent adverse effects and serious consequences to our clients who labor under well-grounded fear of persecution. This, especially in the light of recent developments where not only mass leaders and members of the progressive movement but also other innocent ordinary individuals were illegally arrested and detained, even paraded to the public.
A case in point is that of our client Rolly Mira Panesa, a long-time and well-documented private security guard who is being transmogrified into one Benjamin Mendoza – allegedly the Southern Tagalog commander of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and who carries a P5.6 million bounty – on the ludicrous ground that he purportedly bears the same mole on the nape as the latter.
Undisclosed, the list will, based on abundant experience, definitely be used to harass political activists and leaders of peoples’ organizations. We continue to see the utter disregard of the right to due process when such activists and leaders were routinely and perfunctorily arrested by virtue of generic John Doe warrants of arrest by mere substitution. All these are moreover in open violation of minimum standards in international law.
We are thus of the considered view that the subject list is another tool for such brazen violation of the rights to due process, because it will give law enforcement agencies and pray tell, any vigilante group, the opportunity to use the list to effect an arrest, real or contrived, even of those who are not facing any valid charges in court, and to claim the bounty. Worst, the list may even be used as a hit list, or another version of an “order of battle”, opening the floodgates for more harassments, disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
In view of all the foregoing, we respectfully request that we be provided a copy of Joint Order No. 14-2012 and the whole list and that the same should be publicly disclosed immediately so that we can – when warranted by the circumstances – immediately study undertaking all necessary legal measures and forthwith avail of all legal remedies to protect our client’s interests.
Thank you and with assurances of our professional regards, we remain -
Very truly yours,
Edre U. Olalia
Hon. Leila De Lima
Department of Justice
Padre Faura, Manila